A NURSE failed to check on a dying patient for five hours and then lied to the family he was alive even after he had passed away, it is claimed.
Darren Diplexcito admits telling the family by phone that the patient was “unsettled” after he had died.
The 29-year-old also admits that when the family arrived at the hospital he falsely claimed the patient had died minutes earlier.
The nurse, from Montrose, Angus, claimed for a year he was with the patient when he died but the deception was eventually uncovered by a manager at NHS Tayside.
Mr Diplexcito, who admits a “huge error of judgement”, now faces being struck off following an investigation by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).
He denies failing to check on the patient and said he acted out of a desire to ease the suffering of the family.
Mr Diplexcito, who lost his job over the incident, claimed it was “common practice” not to inform distressed families over the phone about their relative’s death.
The NMC, at an investigating committee hearing in Edinburgh, said Mr Diplexcito was responsible for a patient receiving palliative care at an unnamed hospital renal ward in the NHS Tayside area.
He is accused of failing to check on the patient between 1am and 6.10am on 5 May 2011, when the patient was found to be dead by another nurse.
According to the NMC report on the hearing, case presenter Lizzy Acker said: “There are statements from colleagues in the documentation which suggest that you did not attend to the patient during this time.”
The report continued: “She said that you allegedly provided a false account of the circumstances, sequences and timing of events surrounding the death of the patient to the bereaved family, phoning and telling them that the patient was still alive between 6am and 7am.
“When they arrived at 7:10am you then told them the patient had died minutes before and he was not alone because you and staff members were with him.
“You should have dealt with the pain of the family in an honest manner.”
The report continued, saying Mr Diplexcito had lied about the exact circumstances of the incident for more than a year.
Ms Acker, according to the NMC report, said: “When you were questioned about the concerns of the family by Mr Foulis, Head of Nursing, you told falsehoods both verbally and in written statements to him.
“You allegedly stated that you had seen the patient in a deteriorated state before 6am.
“You told him that you then called the family and told them he had deteriorated and stayed with the patient until he passed away at 6:10am when the death was certified by the doctor.
“You made these alleged falsifications and upheld them for over a year before you made full admissions.”
Ms Acker also told the panel the patient’s relatives have “not known for a year what happened to their family member”, the report said.
Mr Diplexcito was represented at the hearing by Chris Dickson of Anderson Strathearn Solicitors.
The report said: “Mr Dickson said you called the patient’s daughter and told her that the patient was unsettled. He said you did not want to inform her over the phone that the patient was deceased.
“Mr Dickson submitted that this is common practice if the nurse thinks the family may be very distressed, and there are statements in the documentation confirming this practice in relation to bereavement.
“He submitted that this is a very difficult area and it can be considered insensitive to inform the family over the phone.”
The nurse called the family on two occasions after the patient was pronounced dead, Mr Dickson told the panel.
After telling them the patient was “unsettled” he made a follow up call at 7am, where the family said they were on their way.
The report said: “When [the family] arrived you accept that you told them they had missed the patient’s passing by about 5 minutes.
“He said that you accept you should not have said what you did but you wanted to ease their suffering.”
The nurse’s actions to this point did not amount to misconduct, Mr Dickson told the panel.
Mr Dickson said the nurse was “caring and competent” and was remorseful to the family and his employer.
The report said: “[Mr Dickson] submitted that you accept you made a huge error of judgement in not being accurate with the family on their arrival at the hospital and in not clarifying matters properly with Mr Foulis.”
The NMC panel placed Mr Diplexcito under supervision for 18 months, and he may face a full conduct hearing at which he could be struck off if the allegations are found proved.
Mr Diplexcito, who is currently unemployed and on benefits, will have to stay under the supervision of another nurse if he wishes to practice.
He was not available for comment today. His father, Scott, who said his son was now living in Glasgow, declined to comment.